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Cashless fare payments will become permanent if proposals are approved.

Big Blue Bus — Santa Monica’s city department that runs, you guessed it, the big blue buses seen all over Santa Monica and the westside — is considering making a slate of fare changes permanent.

On Thursday, Feb. 10, BBB will host a public meeting at the Santa Monica Main Library to gather public input on proposed changes, which would see single ride fares stay at $1 (down from $1.10) and day passes, week passes and annual passes discontinued.

It has been a full year since the February 2021 decision to pivot away from paper passes and cash transactions, with the final paper passes sold on Feb. 13, 2021. By April of that year, paper passes were fully phased out; three months later, cash and tokens stopped being accepted on board, replaced with contactless fares.

Changes, if approved, will make permanent that pilot program that began last summer.

“The pilot program will study the effectiveness of contactless payments, including making buses safer for both customers and Motor Coach Operators, faster boarding times, and offering more convenient and economical ways for customers to pay their fare,” a BBB press release stated at the time.

When changes were introduced, residents complained that the cashless system disenfranchised bus riders who are elderly and otherwise vulnerable. The BBB policy to allow rides even to those who do not offer a TAP card or mobile payment was sometimes not followed, residents told City Council members at the time.

According to data made available by BBB, the majority of Santa Monica bus riders, 82 percent, pivoted to TAP cards (the same contactless cards used by the regional transit agency LA Metro) by November 2021. Prior to June 2021, 59 percent of BBB riders had used cash to ride the bus.

The average customer saved $76.50 in annual fares due to price reductions, according to BBB.

To replace daily, weekly and annual passes, BBB proposes a $9 10-ride pass or $30 30-day pass. A single-ride pass includes free BBB-to-BBB transfers within two hours for a one-way trip.

The public comment period closes on Thursday, Feb. 17. In April, BBB will present the fare proposal to City Council; if approved, it will be implemented permanently beginning on June 22, 2022.

Thursday’s public meeting can only be attended in person. It is being hosted at Santa Monica Main Library’s Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd., from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Those who cannot attend the meeting are invited to take an online survey at surveymonkey.com/r/bbb_proposed-fare-changes-22_english. The survey is also available in Spanish at es.surveymonkey.com/r/bbb_proposed-fare-changes-22_spanish.

emily@smdp.com